virtuoso global September 2018 Four Cruise Expedition Leaders on Why They Love Their Jobs

Four Cruise Expedition Leaders on Why They Love Their Jobs

Exploring Svalbard, Norway.
Exploring Svalbard, Norway.

The Expedition: Greenland and the Northwest Passage

An interview with expedition leader Nicki D’Souza. 

With an interest in discovery nurtured during her childhood in Bavaria, Nicki D’Souza matured into a full-fledged wanderer. When she’s not trotting the globe for work, she’s traveling for fun, helped along by her ability to speak English, German, and French. Her first experience on a ship was a cruise to Easter Island. For the past ten years she’s led expedition cruises for Silversea around the world.

Three favorite things about Arctic expeditions: The vastness of the landscapes, the fact that it’s still one of the earth’s uninhabited places, and the unpredictability and excitement of seeing wildlife.

Describe a favorite memory from a past cruise: One day we were pushing through the pack ice and saw a polar bear mother with two cubs. Just observing the little ones interacting with one another, with the mother carefully watching, was precious.

Best tip for first-time visitors: An iPhone will not do photos justice in the Arctic!

What excursion should visitors abolutely not miss? Any early-morning or late-evening landing, when the light is at its best. Northern light, late in the season and especially in Greenland, is absolutely spectacular.

Go: Explore the high Arctic during a 16-day round-trip cruise from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. The 254-passenger Silver Cloud charts a course through fjords and glacier-capped mountains, visiting settlements steeped in Inuit tradition and Viking history, with a great chance to spy narwhals, harp seals, and Atlantic puffins. Cultural bonus: an excursion to a Baffin Island community that’s home to more artists per capita than any other place in the world. Departure: August 26, 2019.

Cruising Antarctica. 
Cruising Antarctica. 

The Expedition: Antarctica

An interview with expedition leader Kit van Wagner.

Kit van Wagner grew up in Japan, Norway, and England, and holds a master’s degree in marine science education, a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton captain’s license, and divemaster certification. She’s worked on expedition ships since 1999, the last four years with Silversea.

Favorite thing about cruising here: The kindred spirit of fellow travelers and encounters with the ghosts of intrepid explorers, who long ago dressed in scratchy wool and frozen leather to trek the length and breadth of Terra Australis.

What surprises people most? The stark contrast of the steep, mountainous, black volcanic landscape against the bright white of the snow. The lack of greenery, grasses, and moss is startling to the eye at first, but it’s part of what makes this area of the world so different.

One activity every visitor should try: Take advantage of each chance to walk among hundreds – if not thousands – of penguins in their raucous colonies. While species diversity here is relatively low compared with a tropical rain forest or coral reef, the biomass is great, and the sheer number of animals is hugely impressive.

Essential tips for first-time visitors: Life is simple down south. The mantra is: Stay warm, eat your fill, sleep when you can, and, above all, stay alert and absorb like a sponge the experience of a lifetime.

Go: Cast off from Tierra del Fuego – the “Land at the End of the World” – bound for Antarctica, where icebergs, chinstrap penguins, and at least five types of whales are all in a day’s discovery on the 254-passenger Silver Cloud’s ten-day cruise, round-trip from Ushuaia, Argentina. Survey the epic scale of the continent’s geography from a kayak or Zodiac, and earn bragging rights when you set foot on Antarctica or sail into an active volcano’s caldera on Deception Island. Departure: February 25, 2019.

Snorkelers wanted: The call of the South Pacific.
Snorkelers wanted: The call of the South Pacific.

The Expedition: South Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand

An interview with expedition leader Louis Justin.

Louis Justin grew up in Normandy and found a way to spend years exploring Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific as a young man. Now, with a master’s degree from Melbourne Business School, a fascination with maritime exploration, and certifications from the United Kingdom’s Royal Yachting Association, he’s a well-rounded expedition leader with 34 years of experience in the South Pacific.

What most excites you about traveling in Oceania? The South Pacific is vast and diverse, from its natural heritage – high islands, atolls, active volcanoes, spectacular calderas, pristine jungles, white-sand beaches, and rocky coasts – to the cultures of ancient Melanesia and sprawling Polynesia, which were transformed by European explorers, traders, missionaries, scientists, pirates, and mutineers.

Your favorite memory from a South Pacific cruise: Visiting a very remote island in the Solomon Islands’ Santa Cruz Archipelago, where Melanesian villagers shared stories, passed down through the generations, of eighteenth-century shipwrecks, and then taking guests to snorkel on the outer reef, where 200-year-old wrecks are clearly visible: the best maritime museum in the world!

Three excursions no one should pass up: Hiking in the jungle to overgrown Polynesian temples, witnessing a volcanic eruption, and exploring coral reefs’ underwater world.

When you’re not leading an expedition cruise, we’ll find you: Continuing my research in Normandy or Polynesia, flying small planes, or traveling to photograph volcanic eruptions.

Go: Explore Polynesia’s lush volcanic outcrops, crescent beaches, turquoise lagoons, and snorkel-friendly reefs during the 144-passenger Silver Explorer’s 13-day voyage from Tahiti to Fiji. Adventurous cruisers can swim with rays and sharks and join locals for a traditional kava ceremony. Departure: March 30, 2019.

Dramatic waterfalls, spectacular gorges, and red sandstone cliffs meet Aboriginal culture (4,000-year-old rock paintings, smoking ceremonies) and Australian wildlife (wallabies, crocodiles, red-headed honeyeaters) on Australia’s Kimberley coast. The 116-passenger Silver Discoverer takes it all in, and more, on a ten-day cruise from Broome to Darwin. Departure: April 15, 2019.

Meet blue-footed boobies in the Galápagos.
Meet blue-footed boobies in the Galápagos.

The Expedition: Galápagos Islands

An interview with expedition leader Daniel Arteaga. 

Daniel Arteaga grew up on San Cristóbal in the Galápagos Islands, where he joined his mother, a local tour operator, on many adventures. A marine biologist, Daniel joined Silversea with the launch of the Silver Galapagos in 2013 and is now studying for his master’s in environmental sustainability.

Why should everyone visit the Galápagos? It’s a place that looks so inhospitable from afar, but holds such great biodiversity. Plants and animals from so many regions of the Americas have found a haven there. Their adaptations, physical and behavioral, are exciting to see.

Describe a favorite memory from a past cruise: Spotting a Galápagos fur seal nursing her pup on the sandy trail of North Seymour Island. These seals are hard to find, as they live on rocky coastlines that get a lot of wave action. I’d never had the opportunity to observe them for an extended amount of time.

What surprises people most about the islands? How tame and even extroverted the wildlife is. Although visitors are asked to keep a distance of six feet from animals, there are places, such as Genovesa Island, where the birds are so curious it’s impossible to follow that rule!

The one activity you’d put at the top of visitors’ lists: Snorkeling. The rocky reefs are full of life, and, depending on the area, you can swim with penguins or even spot hammerhead sharks.

Go: Carry on Charles Darwin’s legacy of discovery during a seven-day cruise from San Cristóbal to Baltra Island in the Galápagos. The 100-passenger Silver Galapagos is specially designed to get the most from the remote archipelago, where blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, giant tortoises, and land iguanas changed the course of science. Kayak, snorkel, and ride Zodiacs for close-up views of creatures you can’t see anywhere else. Departures: Multiple dates through December 28, 2019. 

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